PH Earth Day 2021: Commitment to protect the environment

Published April 22, 2021, 12:02 AM

by Manila Bulletin

This year’s Earth Day celebration is marked by the Philippines’ first Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), approved by President Duterte, which sets a 75-percent greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction and avoidance by 2030, to fulfill the country’s commitment to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Over the 2020-2030 decade, the country seeks to modernize by employing a low carbon and resilient development strategy in key sectors: Agriculture, waste, industry, transport and energy.  The baseline is the country’s projected cumulative economy-wide emission of 3,340.3 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent gases for the same period.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III invoked the principle of climate justice.  As chairman-designate of the Climate Change Commission, which facilitated a multi-sectoral NDC formulation process, he affirmed that the NDC would be the country’s principal tool to “mitigate the climate crisis and make our economy more resilient and our growth sustainable.”

Compared to the preliminary 70 percent target set by the country in 2015, the new NDC of 75 percent represents a significant leap in GHG reduction.  Considering that the Philippines is a low carbon-emission country, 72.29 percent is “conditional” or contingent upon the support of climate finance, technologies and capacity development, which shall be provided by developed countries, as prescribed by the Paris Agreement. The remaining 2.71 percent is “unconditional” or shall be implemented mainly through domestic resources.

The irony is palpable. Global warming, the phenomenon that triggers disruptive alternating climate cycles such as El Niño and La Niña, has brought on a series of disastrous typhoons in the Philippines that have killed thousands of Filipinos and inflicted massive destruction of homes and livelihood.

According to the reputable GermanWatch that has been publishing a Global Climate Risk Index for almost two decades, the Philippines ranks fourth among countries in terms of the Long-Term Climate Risk Index. Based on a 10-year survey from 2020 to 2019, the country — along with Puerto Rico, Myanmar and Haiti — is “recurrently affected by catastrophes” and by the strong impact of “exceptionally intense extreme weather events” such as typhoons Yolanda (Haiyan, 2013), Pablo (Bopha, 2011), Sendong (Washi, 2011).

Attaining the NDC will have to start where there is highest energy consumption. Global studies show that about half of energy produced by fossil fuels is consumed is buildings: lighting, cooling, homes, factories and offices.  Another third of all energy consumed is accounted for by transportation: trucks, buses, cars and transit fleets.

The United Nations and the Asian Development Bank have initiated projects to build sustainable cities in the Philippines that could model pathways toward a greener and gentler environment.  Lipa, Tagbilaran and Cagayan de Oro cities have been assisted in strengthening their environmental planning and management with support from the UN-Habitat and the UNEP global Sustainable Cities Program.  Iloilo City has also emerged as an exemplar in urban planning with a long-term plan to decongest and expand into Jaro district.

Green cities could set the pace for a sustainable, resilient future.